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Karen Thalacker Headshot

Family Drama With a Bird's Eye View

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Do you find that it's hard to find a show that the entire family can watch together? My four kids, ages 10 through 16, know my rules for television and movies: no sex, no drugs, no violence, no swearing. Needless to say, our options are limited. But we've recently found something that we all enjoy, and it's not a television show or a movie. It's a web show, of sorts, and it is so fascinating that we abandon the Xbox, the Blackberry, and the iPods to watch it at a moment's notice.

It is the real-life drama of a Midwestern couple struggling to raise three kids in a small house in the woods. Okay, the couple is actually a pair of bald eagles and they are taking turns sitting on their eggs in a one-and-a-half ton nest located about 80 feet off the ground. My family watches this extraordinary story unfold every day at www.ustream.tv/channel/decorah-eagles.

According to the website, the magnificent birds have been together since 2007. They built their nest in a cottonwood tree near a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa, and they have hatched and fledged eight eaglets over three seasons. Now in their fourth year, they are patiently awaiting the arrival of three new members of the family.

The stunning video is courtesy of the Raptor Resource Project (RRP) whose mission is to "expand participation in raptor preservation and help foster the next generation of preservationists." The RRP has positioned two cameras about four to five feet above the nest. The main camera is automated and has infrared nighttime view for a 24/7 video stream. Periodically there is a live moderated chat that occurs to the right of the video. People can comment on the birds and ask questions about their activities.

My family has been pondering what makes this so fascinating for people of all ages and from all walks of life. My youngest son enjoys watching how the eagles work together. Like many families, the parents take turns caring for the kids and also spend a great deal of time squawking at each other. My middle son likes that you can see images and witness events that you could never see without the cameras, and yet no one is interfering with or bothering the birds. My husband is just glad the kids are interested in nature.

I love all of it. The sound of the wind through the branches and the gurgling trout stream. The sight of the brilliant white heads and the lethal beaks and claws. The precious glimpses of fragile eggs snuggled into a carefully constructed bed of sticks, mud and straw.

I should warn you that you will be nervous when the eggs are left alone and exposed. Viewers chat anxiously as they hope for the parents' swift return. But it is most often both relaxing and mesmerizing. Until, without warning, it is breathtaking. On March 2nd, thousands of viewers -- including my family -- gathered around the computer and watched and then cheered as the mother eagle laid her third egg.

As winter turns to spring, people in offices and homes all over the world will be eagerly anticipating the sights and sounds of hatching - and hopefully thriving -- eaglets. Thank you to the Raptor Resource Project for giving us a show we can all enjoy.

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